I doubt if most of us ever have to ask ourselves that question because we live our lives knowing the answer is “not to steal.” Another portion of humanity that might be faced with that sort of question already knows that it doesn’t have to be asked because stealing is just a way of life – it’s what they do.
There may be a few people who actually do get caught up in the question since normally, they would rather not steal; but if the circumstances are right and the need is present, stealing just might seem like a reasonable option to them.
A week or two ago, a woman came into our Las Vegas Tribune offices ostensibly for the purpose of looking for a job. I met her, spoke with her, and wondered if we’d ever see her again after she left. A few days ago, this same woman came back into our offices and said she was ready to start. I wasn’t there that day.
The very next day, when I got to work, there she was, “moving in” – actually she had already rearranged all the furniture in my office to accommodate herself – ostensibly for the purpose of “helping” us. She claimed to have a broad background that might indeed be useful to us if put to its best use. She stated (out of her supposed beliefs, I imagine) that she could make major useful changes in our way of doing business that would be to our benefit and would benefit all.
Far be it from me to turn away genuine caring and helpful people. But at this point, I had no way of knowing if she was genuinely caring and would be at all helpful. All I knew was that she was “moving in” and was acting like she knew what she was doing. Fortunately for her, I have a flexible nature and always look for the good in things.
Needless to say, nothing she said or did was in accordance with my concept of how a new team member ought to act, or even in accord with any of the best concepts of how any leader or co-worker should ever act. She obviously has never read any of Doug Dickerson’s columns, which we run in every issue and which I highly praise.
Anyway, things seemed to be going downhill in the person-to-person vibe department, no matter how I attempted to see any possible good in this situation, but I strove to continue to look for the good in her for the good of the Tribune. After an hour or two, we were able to get on some kind of reasonable par during which she started to share bits and pieces of her life story with me, if indeed any of it was true. If true, it did not make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but even more concerned for the welfare of our publication. Nonetheless, she offered up what might have been somewhat understandable reasons for her perceived “difficult” attitude and behavior during this initial getting-to-know-her period of time. First, she had been running on “no-sleep energy,” and had been working on moving all that furniture and trying to “organize” all our files prior to my showing up. On top of that, she was still grieving the recent murder of one of her close relatives. I had no way of verifying the latter, of course, but I could see that the furniture was indeed very moved and that our files had indeed been… touched.
But then she said something rather strange in defense of her “way” of speaking and acting: “I’m from New York.”
She, of course, did not know that I was from New York. Granted, I did not live in one of the five boroughs, but close enough: I could walk to the Bronx from my home. I shopped in Manhattan often. I had friends in the Bronx and Brooklyn, and even Queens. We “hacked around” in the city for entertainment and took the ferry across to Staten Island for fun. I was part of the scene. But I guess only “true” New Yorkers, those wholived in one of the boroughs, would qualify for the “I’m from New York” excuse to cover their rude-crude speak, and harsh and/or aggressive way of acting toward those with whom one intended to work.
Since this was our first encounter, and she was extremely tired, and suffering the violent recent death of a relative, AND was from New York, I was willing to see how the day would end up, perhaps allowing me to try for “Act II, Scene I,” should we all survive Act I, Scenes I, II, and III. At this point, Miss Behavior said she needed to go home to clear her head. My interpretation of her comment was, “I’ll be gone for a while, but I’ll be back.” Well, Scene III was to have quite a surprise twist.
A peripheral member of the Las Vegas Tribune team (one who is not, at least as of this writing, considered a full-time ongoing member of the Tribune family, but one who is valued in every way just the same) came in just about then, and we both went into Rolando’s office for a brief conversation. After a few minutes, I excused myself to go back to my… newly arranged… office.
That was when I realized there would be no Act II. Ever. Not for her. While I was in Rolando’s office, “someone” had stolen my purse! Who could it possibly have been? I did not see it taken. The only other person in my office was our Miss Behavior, who was last seen sitting in the chair on which I had my canvas tote bag, looking straight ahead to where I had my brand new black purse.
But not even wanting to suspect the worst, imagining that I might have absent-mindedly stuck it elsewhere, I looked high and low, and the others in the office helped me. When all possible places had been explored, I went straight to my bank and cancelled all my credit cards. I was told that one purchase had already been made, at the Shoe Palace, for $217. 23, and that five other tries had been made, but were not successful. This was not the work of one looking for a few dollars to get through a hard time. This was the work of someone who knew how to steal, when to steal, and how to make the most out of what was stolen.
The good news is that she will not be part of our team. The further good news is that both my bank and the Shoe Palace were accommodating and willing to work with police on the fraud charges. No doubt the Shoe Palace has her making the purchase(s) on camera. And there is no action left on any of my cards that will do her any good.
True, she stole several items from me, including credit cards and money, but she also stole my time – since I had to make many calls and do many things to get myself all straightened out – and caused me to have to spend additional money to replace certain items, including getting my locks changed, but all that might be considered a small price to pay to have Miss Behavior out of our offices and out of our business.
The strangely sad part is that she may well be angry with us for even thinking she did it – since she DID come back to the office (after I had gone) and disavowed the whole thing, even to the point of saying that I only had one purse – which makes one wonder why she even said that. She could have suggested that “someone may have run in off the street and grabbed it when no one was looking.” Little did she know that I could not possibly travel about town without my bus pass and I.D., keys to get back in my apartment, and money for shopping on the way home – all of which was in the stolen purse, NOT in the canvas tote. So the very act of denying my other purse existed (to help her defense, I suppose) clearly makes her look all the more guilty.
So, to steal or not to steal was never her question. It was just what she did. And you know what, Miss Behavior? You’ll never know what YOU really lost.
Maramis Choufani is the Managing Editor of the Las Vegas Tribune. She writes a weekly column in this newspaper. To contact Maramis, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.